From Insomniac To Astralnaut

1316 Relax and Succeed - A busy ego before bed sets us up to sleep with the enemy

Today, many people have turned their concept of ‘sleep’ into some sort of terrible terrain that they are afraid to traverse each night. If we choose to think of sleep that way then it only makes sense that it will feel that way when we get there. We’ve pre-demonized it.

Half the joy of dinner at a great cook’s house is built by our anticipation of how good the meal will be. Half of the joy of a horror film is that something might jump out of a closet. Anticipation and fear are both projections of the future that are known to consistently exceed reality’s ability to deliver. Thoughts do a lot.

Without our thoughts about it, Disneyland is just another paved lot filled with fake storefronts, common rides and cute characters. Take our thoughts about sleep away and a bed is not dangerous territory, it’s just a rectangular piece of soft furniture for laying down on. There is no reason to fear it. It’s our thinking about the act of falling asleep that we’re afraid of. But now the bed and bedtimes trigger those courses of thought.

It is time to reinvent bedrooms into meditation salons. We don’t go there to sleep, we go there to commune with spirit –to break the bonds of our earthly selves. Dreaming is a very spiritual thing.

Part of the problem is that so many people today use sleep aids. Those impact memory, so people don’t remember their dreams. Even if they are having fun at night too many of us can’t recall what happened.

Even more than just regular old exciting dreams, lucid dreaming can be an extremely enjoyable and rewarding experience. But again, to do it most of us will likely need to have a drug-free mind. If we can work our way through that however, we do get a reward…

Rather than turning the idea of sleep into something scary, let’s make it into something exciting and desirable. Let’s make it into a meditative opportunity. Instead of seeing our beds as hostile territory, we can see it more like a shaman’s platform, or some kind of test area in a science lab.

Bed is the surface that we lay on when we want to explore inner space –where we transport into our lucid dreams –as Astralnauts.

It might seem over-the-top and unattainable, but all it really requires is for us to take the task seriously. I learned it in about 2-3 months as a kid. But I tried every single night. No practice, no skill.

1316 Relax and Succeed - Make sleeping a meditation

The easiest way is just to repetitively tell ourselves we will wake up in our sleep every night, and then stop to remember our dreams in the morning. Repeat then wait.

I did it by accident, by trying to ‘be awake’ for the moment that I fell asleep. However we do it, it’s important that we understand what we’re doing. We’re simply layering our waking consciousness over top of our sleeping mind much like our ego controls our biological mind while we’re technically ‘awake.’

When I succeeded and woke up in a dream, I’m not sure that was because I caught the moment of falling asleep or not. But after a few weeks of trying I suddenly found myself in a weird state of mind. I was in a dream, but part of me was awake. It was like achieving superhero status. In the dream I could do anything.

Many people have learned to do this. It’s better than labelling ourselves as insomniacs and just surrendering into that victim state. There’s no reason to do that when we can just as easily turn the Torture Chamber of Insomnia into the Horizontal Temple of Dreams. But again, it takes practice before the payoff.

We can all start by just remembering the unguided dreams we do have. If we don’t remember them now, no problem. If we start taking a few minutes each morning to try to, I have yet to meet the person who couldn’t over time.

Even within the first week of trying most people notice they are grabbing more snippets, and eventually the snippets get longer and within a few months people can often remember them quite easily, and in fair detail.

Over time we just get better at it like any other thing our brains do. And, if we remember them we can also think about how fascinating many of them are. They are also good clues as to how our mind is processing the world at any given time.

If we can come to see dreams as a kind of temporary freedom, then bed time isn’t scary. Instead, it becomes more like an opportunity, or a trip to the holodeck, or some fantastic theatre where we even feel what’s on the ‘screen.’ They can be great learning experiences.

Bottom line, sleep will never come easy if we see our beds as hostile territory. But that conception is made entirely of our own thoughts, so to change those we must first accept responsibility for them. From there we can use our minds to turn our time in bed into the very activity of falling sleep, all so we may have the lucid experiences that can not only make bed time quite fun, but they also make for a wonderful and useful form of meditation.

Enjoy your practice.

peace, s

Resting the Soul

1313 Relax and Succeed - Resting the Soul

We can be kind to ourselves with our thoughts, but we can also be kinder to ourselves with our lives.

Whether it’s what we eat, how and when and with whom we eat it, or if it’s walks outside or time with a book, we must ensure that we are not expecting our minds to compensate for a life that is drastically out of a balance in terms of expenditures of energy versus opportunities for rejuvenation.

If we are under stress, then it will feel like it and we must simply accept that there are times in life where rest and good nutrition is not really possible. We can generally endure far more than we suspect but, despite that, we must ensure we make room to rest or else everything will become stressful.

Rest is not a selfish luxury of ego, that is sloth. Rest is what a healthy mind needs to sustain their hold on equanimity. Sloth is when we deny the world the benefits of our inherent value.

What makes this challenging is that no one desires the hardships of life so it makes sense we will often feel resistance to needing to react. At the same time if we don’t react we naturally feel uncomfortable because our nature moves us to contribute meaningfully to our society because that is actually a selfish, self-preserving approach. We are better together. Knowing that, we need to nurture our value to the larger world.

1313 Relax and Succeed - True silence is the rest of the mind

In the end, all we need to contribute is some wisdom and some enthusiasm. The former comes through experience, but the latter is more a matter of us getting out of the way of our nature. In many cases, we really do find the tougher jobs more rewarding. But in order to take them, we must feel we have the energy to succeed.

Do not feel guilty about needing real rest. Deep down, we all know when we really need it versus when we’re simply seeking to avoid a responsibility we feel inside. By spending more time with the difference between the feelings we can learn to tell one from the other more quickly, which allows us to accomplish more, while also ensuring that we’re rested enough to do so.

Let us all balance our weeks as much as we can. With the right attitude, we can make a huge impact on how our days feel. Enjoy.

peace, s

Slow for Improvement

1265 Relax and Succeed - Wonderful things will happen todayLife is filled with choices and one of the first ones we make is why, when and how we wake up in the morning. The slowest, gentlest awakening allows us to make a gradual shift from our sleeping state to our waking. Waking up at the last possible minute to a screaming alarm, means that the very first encounter that your mind has with the day is being startled into it with panic and demands. It’s not an ideal start.

If we’re tired a lot, rather than going to bed earlier, most people get louder alarms and shock themselves even worse in the morning. This exacerbates the problem when the real answer is to stop paying attention to schedules and days and time and try to pay more attention to how you feel. This doesn’t make you late if you do it right, it makes you flow. You have to have an awful lot of fun in those hours before bed before you’ll equal the life advantages to being well-rested for the entire next day.

Listen to your body when it screams for sleep. Adjust your life accordingly; don’t make it one of the many bricks you voluntarily take on that weight down your day. Even if you’re late, rushing is a compulsion but it’s generally not effective. We get out of our routine and we spend so much time getting mad at ourselves by forgetting things. That’s compounded by our own mapping out the consequences of being late, from traffic, to angry bosses, to the worst parking spot on the lot, that it just leads us to make more and more mistakes, which leads to more angry conversations when in the end the only cure would not be to fix the time but to fix your mindset.

1265 Relax and Succeed - May your choices reflect your hopesThe time you can’t change. Your approach to your day is always yours to choose. Breathe. Again: understand the value of how you start. Take a few moments to appreciate it. Don’t judge it, don’t give it weather or time or any other meaning, just wake. Then take a moment to collect yourself. You can note if you’re late that you’ll need to be efficient, but that’s setting an intention, not generating panic.

We’re not comparing ourselves to being perfect, we’re noting that our day will require us to be sharp, and so setting that tone consciously allows us to be doing what is appropriate rather than rushing to simply meet a schedule with no value placed on the mindset we arrive in. Can you see that harried days happen in your head, while the more focused ones are more of a verb; an action? We need to center ourselves over that action and not the words around the action.

In the end, most people’s lives are bad because they are completely unmanaged. People put far more attention into some trivial thing they purchase than they do toward managing their own days. Too often our lives aren’t coordinated or designed to create a rewarding life, they strictly meet the current tyranny of a clock.

1265 Relax and Succeed - The ego is nothing otherWe often still need to be places at specific times to coordinate our efforts with others, but that still leaves us with ample choices about our bedtime, our sleeping arrangements, and how we choose to wake up. Don’t let daily life experiences like that happen by accident and without consideration of how your morning can set the stage for a healthy day. Wake up gently, feel the qualities of a worthwhile day gathering, and when you feel enthusiasm for the day strike, that’s your time to move.

Don’t live out of blind habit. Take a moment in the morning after waking to simply assert to your being. What sort of day do you intend to extract from your daily events? Will you watch for their downsides or their upsides? You can always switch at any moment during your day, but no moment sets the right tone for a day like those first moments after waking. Spend them wisely.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.